On Songwriting | Musings On How To Write a Song

Something to Be Grateful For

Something to Be Grateful For

There you are, thinking abstract thoughts, humming catchy little melodies in your head, trying to be creative. Conjuring up a brand new song.

Back on planet earth, the world just keeps on turning.

Newspaper editors debate “Do we call it a crash? Maybe it’s more like a ‘scary drop’ or a ‘runaway train of a sell-off.'” Meanwhile, 90-year-old Addie Polk shot herself in the chest before Akron deputies arrived to escort her out of her foreclosed home where she has resided for the past 38 years. Then there are the misguided souls who have begun shouting scary things at incendiary political rallies. Flip to the next page of the paper, and there’s typically something still worse happening somewhere else.

So how do we do it, this songwriting thing?

How do we stay connected enough to observe and participate, yet insulated enough to remain sane — much less creative?

Blow up the TV
Throw away the paper
Move to the country
And buy us a home…

Mighty fine advice from songwriter John Prine, if it were only that easy.

Could it be that the answer to “How do we do it?” is connected to something as basic as how we define ourselves?

Reflecting on the current state of the global economy, a dear friend recently wrote “The very rich who have lost millions will just have to redefine themselves in other ways besides their money, cars, houses and clothing. The rest of us will just carry on perhaps with a few less bucks but ‘who we are’ intact.”

As a songwriter, I’ve been thinking up new music for years with no hit records or fat royalty checks to keep me motivated. I actually write songs for the love of doing it. Whatever happens from there is a bonus — and mostly out of my control anyway.

When I read those words from my friend, I paused to embrace how precious and fundamental the creative spirit is to “who we are.”

As the world turns round and round, that’s something to be truly grateful for, always.


PS: It turns out that Addie Polk survived her own bullet, and her cause fueled blogs on reckless lending practices rampant during the housing boom. Fannie Mae dropped the foreclosure, forgave her mortgage and said she could remain in the home. “Sometimes you have to shoot yourself to get help,” lamented a neighbor.